Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Underwater Welder

Jack Joseph is the underwater welder from the title of this book. He works on an oil rig off the coast of Nova Scotia, and he is under pressure from a few circumstances. His work is intense and dangerous. He and his wife are expecting their first baby, who is due within the month. He is haunted by memories of his father, a diver who died in a diving incident, and his relationship with his mother is strained. In the midst of all these tensions, Jack begins to see things while he is at work, things that should not be in the water around him. Of course, he feels compelled to investigate...

This story was very affecting and captured a wide range of emotions. This should come as no surprise to readers who have read other of Lemire's original comics. His artwork is scratchy, in black and white, and packs quite a wallop when it comes to setting moods, delineating characters, and evoking feelings. He makes great use of pacing, with mundane actions balanced with a few wide screen moments reminiscent of Jack Kirby spreads that make for effective storytelling effects.

Jeff Lemire is no stranger to accolades, having won an Alex Award for Tales from the FarmJoe Shuster and Doug Wright Awards for being an outstanding cartoonist, and a Xeric Award for his first graphic novel, Lost Dogs. His Essex County Trilogy was incredibly well received, and he has more recently worked on more mainstream comic books, with his series Sweet Tooth from Vertigo and writing a number of books, including Animal Man, Constantine, and Green Arrow for DC Comics. He speaks about his work on The Underwater Welder in this interview.

Reviews I have read about this book have been resoundingly positive. NPR's Glen Weldon offered this opinion about Lemire's book, "These pages are poignant and masterful, and represent some of the very best work he's ever done." Jason Serafino wrote, "It’s incredibly heartfelt and emotional with a few life lessons sprinkled throughout that you might be able to learn something from. The prospect of a 200-plus page comic book about a family drama might seem intimidating, but once you pick it up you’ll wish it never ended." Erik Norris called it a "tour de force with enough emotional resonance that you might find yourself wiping away a single tear while closing the book’s final page."

A preview and more are available here from the book's publisher Top Shelf.

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